No to a “nationalism of exclusion”
Growing racism and xenophobia in Europe are the theme of this year´s Concerted Action of Justice and Peace Europe.
The joint initiative of the Conference of European Justice and Peace commissions comes at just the right moment, with high rates of unemployment and social marginalisation resulting from the economic crisis, new threats to our core values, as highlighted by the recent attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, and the rise in extremism on both the left and right. Elections across the European continent, not least at the EU level, have shown a new rise of nationalist parties advocating a dominating nationalism of hegemonic superiority over universal human values.
A joint effort to tackle xenophobia and racism
The annual Concerted Action is one of the common forms of working of the European Justice and Peace network comprising 31 commissions from countries of both the European Union and beyond. It is always dedicated to a specific theme that is agreed at the General Assembly. Following established customs this year´s Concerted Action was launched at the beginning of Lent with the publication of a jointly-produced text entitled “The nationalism of exclusion”.
The text acknowledges that nationalism may have different meanings in different parts of Europe and recognises that there might be “good reasons for loving one´s mother tongue or feeling attached to one´s country”. The desire of a nation or an ethnic group to seek more autonomy within an existing state is recognised as “a legitimate political goal as long as it is pursued by democratic and non-violent means” and respects the “other” members of society.
What the action is directed against is the trans-European phenomenon of parties seeking popularity through simplistic political programmes and slogans based on a “paradigm of exclusion”; and very often racist or xenophobic in their expression. The issues of migration and the European Union can be regarded as two illustrative examples being particularly vulnerable to populist approaches of “offering simple apparent solutions, ignoring realities and thus threating social cohesion and peace”.
The Church teaching on nationalism
The Social Teaching of the Church regards nationalistic ideologies as contrary to human dignity and deems “any theory or form whatsoever of racism and racial discrimination morally unacceptable” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 433). While maintaining that the rights of nations, cultures and minorities need to be respected, it stresses that human beings are equal and it would be a denial of justice, particularly to the most vulnerable members of society, to define fundamental rights on the basis of national, racial or religious origins. Thus, in the Christian vision, feelings of national supremacy cannot be justified to the detriment of solidarity and respect for all.
How to respond to the nationalism of exclusion?
The Justice and Peace Europe Concerted Action 2015 calls for developing a robust response to growing racism and xenophobia in Europe to be rooted in our common European values, particularly in its respect for human rights and human dignity.
As part of the initiative, the joint text has been submitted to key political actors at all levels – regional, national as well as European – and calls on them to work on inclusive and fair economic and social policies protecting in particular the most vulnerable in our society as well as to develop a “consistent migration policy”. The recent announcement by the European Commission to launch work on a comprehensive European Agenda on Migration that would also address the root causes of migration, deploy adequate development strategies and ensure a better sharing of responsibilities might be considered as a first positive step in this direction.
On the other hand, the action also turns to organisations of civil society and Churches and calls on them to oppose and “speak out against all expressions of populist rhetoric in private and in public life and to encourage a renewed commitment to European integration”.
The members of the Justice and Peace Europe network will organise various events raising awareness for the theme and discussing the programmes and methods of populist parties.
Reading the signs of the times
Besides the annual gatherings in the form of Secretaries-General meetings and General Assemblies preceded by International Study Days, the annual Concerted Actions are another expression of Justice and Peace Europe´s calling on us to carefully read “the signs of the times” in the spirit of the Vatican II Pastoral Constitution “Gaudium et Spes” and to further social awareness. In order to also live up to its commitment to promote global social justice and universal peace, Justice and Peace Europe recently concluded a strategic partnership with COMECE and established a joint commission that closely follows and analyses the external relations of the European Union.
Justice and Peace Europe